Pickleball's popularity is picking up in city parks, North Little Rock Parks and Recreation Director Terry Hartwick said.
"It's so big," Hartwick said. "Pickleball is exploding."
City parks, Hartwick said, are trying to catch up with the growing game -- a paddle sport that combines a mix of tennis, badminton and ping pong.
Pickleball games are already held on the basketball court at the North Little Rock Community Center, 2700 Willow St., on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The sport is also popular at the North Heights Community Center, 4801 Allen St., Hartwick said.
Pickleball is usually played on tennis courts retrofitted for the shorter court and smaller net used in pickleball.
"Pickleball is already going on in the community center at North Heights," Hartwick said. "They've asked for another court. I'm looking at putting two courts in. It's become very, very popular."
Pickleball was invented in 1965 but has most recently caught on among all ages and skill levels, according to the USA Pickleball Association. Its rules are simple and the game is easy to pick up, according to the organization's website usapa.org. Because most games involve doubles play, it's also a social game, and the game's quick pace can provide a fast workout.
There were 3.1 million registered pickleball participants in the United States in 2018, a 12% increase over previous years, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
Adding more pickleball courts is only part of parks improvements scheduled to be completed soon, Hartwick said.
The One Heart Playground in Burns Park, opened in September 2017 for special needs children and adults, is being expanded in size and adding a wheelchair swing and a merry-go-round also accessible for wheelchairs. The $12,000, custom-made wheelchair swing, produced by a Scottish company, has been shipped and is due in New York on Oct. 19, Hartwick said.
"We want to try to get it put in by the middle of November," he said of the swing. "If you're in a wheelchair, you can get into the swing.
"The merry-go-round, you can roll onto it if you're in a wheelchair," Hartwick said. "It's like a little merry-go-round. I'm very excited about it."
Other parks additions planned are a small playground area at the former Stone Links golf course, north of Faulkner Lake Road, and possibly another small playground at North Heights, Hartwick said.
"We're trying to finish up a lot of things before the end of the year, " he said.
The former Stone Links golf course was sold in an auction in December 2014. After many Stone Links subdivision residents expressed concerns to the city about the future use of the land, city officials worked with the new owners to have the nearly 170 acres donated to the city. The North Little Rock City Council approved placing the property under the management of the Parks Department in April 2016.
"Parks go way beyond just improving the aesthetics of our community," Mayor Joe Smith said through a city spokesman about the changes happening in the city's parks. "They provide our kids a place to practice and develop physical and social skills. Our playgrounds and parks can be focal points for helping build interaction between neighbors."
Metro on 10/07/2019